Lab Certification - Summary

William Tivol tivol at
Wed Jul 12 16:10:28 EST 1995

AndrewChung wrote:

: >... people who want to commit fraud will find any way around
: >anything we purpose.  The only thing I would suggest is to make
: >things like this an actual crime [snip]

: Oh, this is very realistic.  It is on the same level as prosecuting people 
: for any sort of misinformation.  Our jails and prisons sure have plenty of 
: space for [snip] scientists who fabricate data...

	A whopping fine and the inability to apply for grants would do the job.
The fines could even be used to build more prisons :-^).  I have no illusions
that they would be used for research support.

: I do not care about the baseline level of human sloppiness.  Not everyone 
: can be as meticulous as you seem to want them to be.  Then again, I am 
: thankful for the discovery of penicillin which was borne out of this 
: sloppiness that you abhor.

	The sloppiness is not in never having contaminated cultures; it is in
refusing to test or recognize that the cultures could be contaminated.  The
discovery of penicillin was *not* the result of sloppiness.  The sloppy re-
searcher would have published something else, ignoring those few cultures which
died, and never discovered penicillin at all.

: My advice to people who read research papers:  
: It's like newspaper articles.  Don't believe everything you read but if 
: several reporters describe the same thing, it's probably true.  

	My advice is to learn to read the papers critically and make your own
judgments.  Fraudulent data may be hard to pick out--unless a trivial formula
was used to produce standard deviations or something of the like--but one can
learn to judge scientific papers with reasonable accuracy.  Several reporters
did, after all, describe cold fusion; however, the Caltech experiments just
read as better done, so I believed them.  Other examples of work I judge to be
well done include Needleman's work on the effects of very low levels of lead
and Kirschvink's work on a possible link between magnetite crystals and the
bioeffects of EMF's.  You can follow these still controversial experiments,
if you wish, to come to your own conclusions.
				Bill Tivol

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